Sunday, August 19, 2012

The First Hour

I am apologizing in advance...this is a LONG post, but I had a lot to say after watching a webcast from Coach B!

"Education reform, education revolution, comes from passionate hearts who have learned how to share a vision," is a quote from Coach B from The First Hour that speaks right to my heart. My passion for teaching drew me to WBT, and this movement has taught me that changing the way I interact with students is the first step to improving the way my students interact with me, and with each other.

I am lucky enough to work in a middle school where discipline is usually not an issue. Most students get along, they follow directions, they do their homework. But, to me, it's still not good enough. I'm not satisfied that most kids succeed. I want all of them to feel successful and to make improvements and gains toward their full potential. That's what No Child Left Behind started as, even though it has morphed into something very different (but that's a whole different topic). The ideas set forth in Coach B's The First Hour seem like very simple ideas, but they are amazing in their complexity. These ideas seem to be just what I have been looking for, and I am so excited to put them into practice!

To begin, teaching the first lesson in the hallway is something I never would have thought to do myself, but it seems so basic. Why bring them into the class only to teach them how to enter the class? Another blogger posted about having kids complete specific tasks to find their seats when they enter the room on the first day; for example kids organizing themselves into alphabetical order or by birthday and then sitting in this order. I think this idea mixes well with Coach B's plan, and also allows you to quickly asses who are the alphas, go-alongs, fence-sitters, and challenging students.

In my building, we are in our second year of implementing PBIS (positive behavior interventions and supports), which is an entire behavioral system within itself. However, the tier 1 level of behavioral intervention involves having a solid foundation of classroom management practices already in place. For this reason I believe WBT and PBIS will marry nicely. However, I won't be able to use Coach B's five rules because they do not match our team's expectations matrix. The matrix of expectations, developed by all of the staff, shows what expected behavior looks like in all settings of the school, including my classroom, and is posted in all locations. So what I am going to do is use the WBT foundations and apply them to our matrix. For example, our first rule (Pride) means to make good choices and have a positive attitude. I have come up with a gesture for this rule, created a poster showing it, and will practice this rule for the first week of school. All of the ideas set forth in this webcast I will use to practice this rule instead of Coach B's rule #1.

The fundamental idea of "I talk, you respond" works with whatever system is already in place, and I am so excited to see how it improves what we already have. No matter what the rule or procedure is, to teach it, practice it, get buy in for it, and practice it some more is a shockingly simple way to ensure students are equipped to be successful. Scaffolding new ideas so that students get a chance to practice, practice, and practice again is how we teach subject matter, so why don't we teach rules and procedures the same way?

The game for learning student names actually made me laugh out loud, hit myself in the forehead and yell. 'DUH!". This is how I have been learning my 100+ student names for years, but I have been the one to do it, silently all by myself. I will give the kids an interest inventory or learning style survey and play this game all to myself in my head. Why didn't I include the kids? I'm in such a small school that most of the kids already know each other, but there's that word "most" again. Include the kids in the game so that we ALL learn each others' names! Simple. Brilliant. Why didn't I think of it?

All of these are so simple, why didn't i think of them; so basic in their form, so complex in their outcomes. I can't wait to start school and implement these procedures. I already have 9 years experience in my current position and 12 years total teaching experience, but I feel like I'm starting all over again, equipped with the tools to help ALL students be successful, right from the first hour.

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